Esperanto is an international language, but do we need an international currency? At every congress, people come from many different countries to use a common language, but could they also use a common currency? Nowadays there is a massive growth in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and that has me thinking. What if the Esperanto community had a currency?
Why would we need a currency?
As a matter of fact, the international nature of the Esperanto community makes it difficult to use one national currency. For example, at the World Congress people come from 60-70 countries and a wide range of different currencies. It’s very difficult for the organisers to deal with so many currencies and payment methods, so it would greatly simplify things if we had only one. Everyone loses money due to exchange fees, so if there was an international currency everyone would save money. The Revuo Esperanto boasts that it has subscribers in 120 countries, but that means many currencies for subscription costs to be paid in. Kontakto even lists its price in 15 different currencies on the inside cover page of every edition. Of course, the creation of the Euro certainly helped simplify matters but there are still many.
This could also be used to support creative Esperantists. Writers, musicians, vloggers can create material and strengthen our culture but only if the community supports them. But unfortunately, it’s very difficult to earn much money through Esperanto, so most creators are volunteers. It is difficult to donate due to technical issues, bank requirements, administration etc, so it’s complicated even for minor sums. Imagine if instead, every blogger and youtuber simply listed their account number at the end of the article or video. If you liked it and want to support them, you could easily click a button and immediately send the money as thanks. If we had our own currency, you wouldn’t need to jump through hoops to please banks or wait ages for the money to transfer from the UEA-account. The best part is that you could even send tiny amounts, even only 10 cent (or even 1 cent). If many people did this, it would all add up. These micro-payments could support and build links among our community.
To be honest, another good reason to create a currency is because it would be fun. Wouldn’t it be cool to have our own currency? What is Esperanto – a language with a flag, anthem and currency. It would be entertaining to have our own secret money that only we knew about. Even if people only used it for pretend games, I still think that would be fun. It could garner interest from the outside world and attract new people. It would be an example of the globalised nature of Esperanto and the ability of the community to work together for communal projects.
There is a surprisingly long history of many attempts to create a currency for Esperantujo. In 1907, “Spesmilo” was created which aimed to be an international bank system, but it faded away after the First World War. Between 1947 and 1993 there was the “Stelo” which aimed to be an international currency and solve the problems I mentioned above. The creators wanted to have a common currency to pay for events and magazines. So my idea is essentially a new version, except this time on the internet. You could even call it the “Nova Stelo”
In fact, there already is something similar to Esperanto money used during international youth events. There are often currency problems at the bar because it’s difficult to decide whether to use the local currency or the larger Euro, but many people have neither. It’s easier for everyone if there’s just one menu, not several according to currency. So, during the last JES, the bar only accepted “Stelo”, plastic tokens with a fixed exchange rate (a Polish zloty bought one or a Euro could buy four). Imagine if we converted that to a real currency.
UEA almost already has its own bank system, the UEA accounts but this is an antiquated and old-fashioned system. I can send money to any other member of UEA and pay for congresses with my account. But the system is out of date and very slow. To send money, I must send an email to the cashier of UEA, who might send money only after several days. Even to check how much money is in the account, you have to send an email and wait several days. Imagine if we improved the UEA accounts so that you could easily send and receive money with your phone?
There already exists more than 1,500 crypto-currencies (and this number is rapidly growing) and there’s actually one with an Esperanto name. Monero uses the Esperanto word for coin as its name and for other features such as its wallet which is called monujo. But 99% of its users don’t know or haven’t even heard of Esperanto, so the name is the only connection. Would it be worthwhile to join an already existing currency and convert it into an Esperanto currency? I don’t think so because most people buy crypto-currencies just to get rich, they don’t care about the currency itself. In fact, crypto-currencies have many problems that make them unsuitable for use in Esperantujo.
Why other crypto-currencies aren’t suitable
In my last article, I discussed the problems and flaws of Bitcoin, and I believe it’s very important that we avoid these problems if we create an Esperanto currency. The first and most serious flaw is that Bitcoin doesn’t function as a currency. Almost no one spends it and a currency that people don’t spend is useless. People only buy Bitcoin as a get-rich-quick scheme, so they buy and wait until the price rises and then sell it. It’s just speculation like at a casino.
I don’t want to create a currency just for people to try to get rich, I want to create something that is useful to the community. There are several core problems with Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies which prevents them from becoming real currencies.
Firstly, they are wildly unstable and the price massively fluctuates. This is a disaster for a currency, because stability is a core requirement. Imagine if I wanted to page for a congress which costs €200 one day, €250 the next and then €150. I could order a book but by the time it arrives the price has already changed. The currencies are unstable because they are decentralised, no one manages the system. There isn’t any central bank to protect or guide it, instead it swings wherever the wind blows.
As the money supply is fixed, the currency is deflationary and the more people join, the higher the price goes. But if the price continually rises, there is no incentive to spend it, in fact you are punished for doing so. If I spend the money when the price is 5, but afterwards it rises to 10, I’d feel like an idiot because I missed the chance to double my money. But if people are always waiting for the price to rise, they will never spend the money. If everyone only holds the currency, waiting for a price rise, this even further increases volatility.
How would the currency work?
To avoid these problems, I propose that our currency should have a central bank, preferable UEA and/or TEJO. To avoid speculation, it’s preferable that the price is fixed or at least very rigid, probably linked to some large currency like the Euro or Dollar. The central bank could issue more of the currency and increase the money supply to suit the needs of the currency. If the price is too high, they could sell more to lower the price and ensure the stability of the currency. I propose UEA and TEJO because they are trusted organisation who prioritise the community instead of just making money. Unlike many other crypto-currencies you don’t have to fear that they will rob or steal the money. They already have a large network of potential users and uses, such as the bookshop and congresses. UEA is larger but TEJO is younger and more open to new ideas, so they probably are more likely to support the idea of a currency.
I want the currency to be completely free of speculation, if anyone makes a profit from buying and selling the currency, then something has gone wrong. The goal of the currency is to be used and be useful, not to have a high price or be a speculative asset. There should be only one official site that sells the money (maybe the website of UEA or TEJO) and we could even prevent it from being resold. If you buy it, you must spend it in the Esperanto community or send it to other Esperantists. It could even be a source of revenue for UEA and TEJO, which certainly could do with some financial help. This could also prevent the other great problem of crypto-currencies, theft and fraud. An enormous number of exchanges have scammed their clients and robbed them, which is why I propose one trusted exchange.
Other cryptos have blockchains which are public ledgers. But we don’t need this because who wants for their spending to be public? I like my privacy and don’t want everyone to be able to see how much I spend in the bar and no business wants everyone to know how much their income and expenditure is. The blockchain is also massively inefficient because it requires an enormous amount of computer energy to confirm payments and create new coins. If the central bank did this instead, it would greatly simplify the matter and be more efficient. Other cryptos require payments to miners to confirm the payments, either with new coins or with transaction fees. Due to this, the payments of Bitcoin are slow and expensive, but if we had a central bank, it would be much faster and free.
Many crypto-currencies don’t have a community or reason to use them. They are like solutions searching for problems. Esperanto is special because we already have a community and already have a reason and need for an international currency. It would be easy to inform thousands of people about the new currency through blogs, YouTube videos and magazines.
How you would use the currency
So, my idea is that people could change their national currency to the “Nova Stelo” at the UEA or TEJO website. With this money, you could pay the registration fee to a congress, the subscription to a magazine, buy a book or some music etc. At the congress you could buy a beer or anything else from the shop. This is why it would be best if the money could be sent from a phone app. Or maybe I could just say my code (like with the UEA account) and the seller could automatically add it to my tab (of course it would have to be confirmed before it’s taken from the account). Afterwards I could thank and support Esperantists who write interesting articles with a little donation. The currency would be completely stabile and everyone could easily and freely send money.
Unfortunately, I know absolutely nothing about programming or the technical aspect of crypto-currencies. I appeal to any programmers to contact me to discuss the possibility of my proposal. What are the possible problems, costs, technical issues? I only wish to give several proposals from an economic and financial perspective. So, what do you think? Is this a good idea? Is it possible or worth doing? Is my proposal a good way to run a currency? Maybe this is merely a crazy and unrealistic idea, but all new inventions are crazy at first, aren’t they?